Saturday, December 31, 2011

Spiritual vs Religious again... A.A. Style

So I went to the noon meeting this last Thursday and the chairperson is one of the meeting founders. He opened the meeting up and proposed the topic... which I like If you're going to chair the meeting, then chair the meeting.

The topic? The Joy Of Living... as suggested due to the Daily Reflections reading. You know... 12th Month... 12th Step sort of thing.

Many of us had our relationship with our Creator as inspiration for this new-found Joy. But near the end of the meeting, the chairperson felt the need to let the "newcomers" know that being this is a spiritual program and not a religious one... that it could be misleading to think that someone must find a "God" as their "Higher Power" and that agnostics can go on being agnostics and remain sober in A.A. and atheists can go on being atheists and remain sober in A.A.

Same "Don't let the God Talk run you off" bullshit.

It is my opinion that the chairperson is wrong. It is my understanding that "We Agnostics" is a chapter written for most all of us, if not exactly all of us. It is my belief that our original founders... about half of them came in as agnostics and became believers of God... or even better, had formed a relationship with God and walked away with faith... and sobriety. That, in my estimation, makes them no longer agnostics.

Our co-founder said that it's his belief that very few of us... those that walk the earth... are atheists to begin with. Go look for yourself and see.

But I live in a world of many many atheists... true atheists, and coffee-shop God-killed-my-puppy-dog-atheists.

So, I disagree that you can come into A.A. and do the program and remain agnostic or atheist.

This ought to stir the pot.

What say you? More importantly, what's your experience? If you're a true atheist and you are "sober in A.A.", I say you're perhaps sober, and you may be in A.A., but you ain't doing A.A.


  1. "What say you? More importantly, what's your experience? If you're a true atheist and you are "sober in A.A.", I say you're perhaps sober, and you may be in A.A., but you ain't doing A.A."

    Nice to see 2012 starting with a hard hitting topic. I was going to post last night but decided to sit with it last night and wait until this morning.

    Many of our critics accuse AA of "bait and switch" tacticts. I absolutley agree. Our book initially opens up the door wide, and then it gets tighter and tighter up to the A,B,C's. At this point we are convinced we are fucked, and no human power can relieve us. The remainder of the work describes a process that allows us to access this power called "God".

    If you are alkie like me, this course of action done completely seems to work well. It has for me and a lot of folks like me. With a certain type of drunk it appears to be the only thing that I have personally seen work.There are a lot of people who don't need to do this that consider themselves AA members. The book calls them hard drinkers.

    Folks in AA who water down the God talk and propose doorknobs etc for higher powers piss me off. There is way too much talking going on in meetings and not enough taking action.

    Atheists and Agnostics are allowed in AA and can call themselves members of AA, I don't like it one bit, doesn't matter, the traditions govern the fellowship. If you are not doing the steps, you are not doing AA, period. Thing is, real alcoholics who hang out in AA drink again or kill themselves, this is my observation.

    I would like nothing more than to see, all the fence sitters, dual addicted, tradition scoffing, slogan spouting folks leave AA. I would love to see a return to the Dr. Bob, "Get on your knees and pray" style. This is why It is good I am not in charge.

    Like most problems in AA, this boils down to piss poor sponsorship and sorry ass group therapy open disgusting meetings.

  2. OK, I'll help stir the pot. I think most of the people who come into the rooms are believers of some sort.

    I've seen very few true agnostics or even fewer atheists come to AA. I know of only one true atheist who's been sober in the program, and he's somewhat of an obnoxious asshole. Wears his atheism on his sleeve.

    The rest of us stand around spouting "my higher power, who I choose to call God" as if this places us on a higher plain or something. So much superior to those who call their higher power "George" or something.

    But what about those who call their higher power Buddha? What about those who worship Shinto or believe in Confucius? Are they atheists? They don't believe in the Judeo-Christian God.

    And check out this article that ran a few months ago.
    The woman’s been in the program for 12 years and is a confirmed atheist. She makes some good points.

    Most people I’ve seen come through the doors who make this an issue are ones who are afraid AA is a religion, and all this talk of God scares them. Whatever religion they were raised in (if any) isn’t part of their lives anymore. I was raised Catholic and have 12 years of that same education, but I would have run out the door if someone had said in my first meeting that they were sober “By the blood of Jesus Christ and the program of AA.” as the above author encountered.

    And indeed these folks, if they stick to the program, come to grips with their beliefs and start believing in God again. You can usually tell who they are by them sayings “God, as I understand Him.” To differentiate from God as you understand Him, I guess.

    I never had a problem with the God thing. The first three steps were pretty easy for me. And I don’t use the term “God as I understand Him” either. I think the God I believe in is the same one everyone else does. That’s why we begin the prayer with the words “Our Father….”

  3. Most atheists are agnostics. They don't believe in God because they don't think His existence has been proven.

    Agnostics do fine in AA from what I can tell. Hell, I'm an agnostic myself on any given day.

    It's the religious atheists who have problems. They either need to learn to be tolerant of other's beliefs (almost impossible for a true atheist, as they are in reality religious fanatics) or come to be a theist or agnostic themselves.

    Bill was talking about 'intellectual atheists' not the people who have made their own brand of paganism out of their non-belief.

    Those people are everywhere on the internet but few and far between in real life. And even scarcer in AA. A low bottom drunk doesn't normally care if you talk about God or football or pickles. They're just happy to be someplace safe and that someone is willing to talk to them at all.

    I would advise them to get another sponsor if asked (and I doubt I would be). Other than that, live and let live I guess. I don't see how they can do AA either. But we always say God has a sense of humor.

  4. Perhaps:
    Spirituality = God without religion, and
    Humanism = religion without God.
    What do you think?

  5. I like what Don P. said about his trip to Russia with a delegation of AA's in 1988. They were invited there by the Soviet government. They were visiting The Moscow Group #1 and it was a Second Step meeting. One young man, sober six months said this:

    "I have no history of God in my life. But now I have found spiritual power within myself."

  6. Well, If the new man doesn’t find God and work the real AA program then he's going to get drunk and leave anyway so I agree, you may as well offend his or her unassailable sense of self sufficiency now by speaking the truth directly about alcoholism verse’s Faith at the risk of driving them back into their wonderful lives because the odds are they won't make it anyway.

    As for that chairperson, just last night a guy at the meeting says that "some people spread the disease just by opening their mouths!"

  7. I like this:
    The relationship between faith/religion and spirituality then is both are “higher” methods of understanding the world. Spirituality is just focused on the self, while religion is focused on God. So there is an inner peace that spirituality brings because spirituality is about yourself. You can also say it about your soul, not just your state of being, because soul is who you really are, the core of yourself, and if you are more connected to the core of yourself you are going to be more at peace, and therefore have more of that spiritual connection, which is one that is a “higher” connection to yourself, like how religion is a “high” connection to God.

    And this:
    If spirituality is understood as the search for or development of inner peace or the foundation of happiness, then spiritual practice of some kind is essential for personal well being. This activity may or may not include belief in supernatural beings. If one has such a belief and feels that relationship to such beings is the foundation of happiness then spiritual practice will be pursued on that basis; if one has no such belief spiritual practice is still essential for the management and understanding of thoughts and emotions which otherwise prevent happiness.

    And finally:
    Religious clergy have criticized the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) lifestyle. Father James Martin has called the SBNR lifestyle “plain old laziness”. He warns that “[s]pirituality without religion can become self-centered complacency divorced from the wisdom of the community.


  8. Rotten Ralph... that's pretty clever.

    Colter... I appreciate your conviction.

    Joe... praise be to Allah.

  9. I am a atheist of 27 years in AA and I have got along just fine on this one sentence in Chapter 4, pg 47, We Agnostics, "When, therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God. This applies, too, to other spiritual expressions which you find in this book."
    My conception of God which is None. I have absolutely no conception of God nor do I have to have one.
    We can debate this till the moon goes dark but I see it as the early atheists who came to AA back in the 30's saw it.
    I am not ignorant here, we all know what Bill wanted and he made that very clear t/o the big book and his 12 and 12 book. But Bill was not the end all of knowledge and authority at least not for me. I guess this is where you guys think us atheist are obnoxious.
    Not so I say, I needed to get sober and AA was available so I clung this vine in Chapter 4.
    I will say this though in all the years I have gone to meetings I have never been or felt rejected for my beliefs. If anything it was my own insecurities early on in my sobriety concerning my developing beliefs that made it uncomfortable for me.
    This power that is greater then me is intelligence, education, family, friends and love.

  10. I like to see atheists get it. Thanks for weighing in Claude. Some of us know of a guy named Andrew who is atheist and has found a "higher power" he can reconcile with and is sober in Alcoholics Anonymous.

    What do you think of some of the anti/XAers' claims that A.A. is a bait&switch religion masquerading as a spiritual program? And what is your take on the Lord's Prayer that is used to conclude many meetings?

  11. Claude:
    Since love is the spirit and essence of God, I don't think that you are quite the atheist that you think you are.

  12. Claude,
    My reference to the atheist who was an obnoxious asshole was an indicator of his personality, not his belief system. I know many more assholes who happen to be God fearing, self-righteous individuals. No offense intended there.

  13. I popped in here to say thanks for your comments. I have a busy day today but will respond this evening to your questions Mc. They are involved answers for me anyway.
    Joe I have always enjoyed your comments and can easily forgive but I too have capability here to for misunderstanding so please forgive me.
    Ralph love is not necessarily from god unless the person says it is. I respect this thought process in my life.

  14. I meant to say culpability, Joe. Getting used to this IPAD I got for Christmas. The word option block that jumps up changes your word at times...lol

  15. The lords prayer and the spiritual bait and switch works on people who let it. I really have nothing against the lords prayer I just never included myself in the worship. I stepped away and allowed the group to carry on.
    I wasn't one of those AA people that had to start another meeting without prayer though I went to a meeting that did not use any of the prayers. They were trying to honor all ethic, religious and/or spiritual folks.
    I didn't see where it said we had to pray before and after a meeting in the BB.
    I can see where anti-aa'ers could see a bait and switch. I think they see this because they just don't believe or trust that AA can work. They have had a bad experience (which can be a reality for some) and it left a bad taste. Some also do not like any form of religion.
    We do have to admit, Bill left no doubt that he wanted you to find God a God of his understanding..lol. Joking. A Judea Christian God as he had.
    Bill tried to open it up by saying,"a god of your understanding". But really he wasn't saying this and it is clear in chapter 4. He, if you will, contradicts himself more then a few times bouncing back and forth on finding God and having your own idea of a god. He wants you to find GOD.
    I chose to hold Bill W. to his words even though I don't believe he meant them. I don't care. It is just so refreshing to know other atheist were coming to AA and had enough influence, to have the first 100 and Bill attempt to give latitude.
    No body is trying to trick anyone in AA to get religion or a spirit. But AA is primarily about God I make no mistake about that.